Amid the ongoing debate over restructuring health care and implementing health reform, other factors that could affect health usually get far less attention.  One, the recently enacted $1.6 billion cut in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency for fiscal 2011, could impair the agency’s ability to enforce rules governing clean air and water. Also out of the limelight is a proposal in the US Senate to amend existing federal law on chemicals safety.  That law has allowed about 62,000 types of chemicals onto the market without any safety testing – including for their impact on the developing human brain.

Environmental health issues like clean air, clean water, healthful food, and the presence or absence of chemicals are key contributors to health or disease. To take just one example, Bisphenol A, a chemical routinely added to plastics to make them harder, is now being investigated for a potential role in such conditions as obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer, asthma and cardiovascular diseases. Tiny doses of fire retardants called PBDEs – often added to furniture, mattresses and other household goods to reduce flammability – have been shown to damage reproductive systems and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory and hearing, as well as changes in behavior.

On May 4, Health Affairs, in connection with its first ever issue on environmental health, will hold a Washington, D.C. briefing. National environmental health and policy experts will discuss the state of environmental health and its future, and will present new research in the field. The briefing and Health Affairs issue on environmental health are supported by a grant from The Kresge Foundation.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 4
8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  
WHERE: W Hotel Washington
515 15th Street NW
Washington, D.C.  
 RSVP for this event online  or contact Lowell Dempsey, Burness Communications, at 301-652-1558 or  

Among the topics to be addressed:

  • What is the impact of environmental changes in a number of areas on human health and life expectancy?
  • How do environmental factors such as air pollution affect chronic diseases rates and educational outcomes for children?
  • How should we address hazards in food production and distribution?
  • How should chemicals regulation be changed so that the use of chemicals that we now know may be unsafe can be better controlled?
  • How could  climate change affect health?
  • What can be done to bridge gaps in understanding and awareness among the people who think and worry about health care and those concerned with the environment?

Speakers include:

  • David Fukuzawa, Program Director, Health, The Kresge Foundation
  • Linda Birnbaum, Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health
  • Kenneth Olden, Professor and Dean, City University of New York School of Public Health
  • Rachel Morello-Frosch, Associate Professor, University of California Berkeley School of Environmental Science, Policy & Management
  • Paul Mohai, Professor, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Erik D. Olson, Director, Food and Consumer Product Safety Programs, Pew Health Group, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Patrice Sutton, Research Scientist, University of California, San Francisco, Center on Reproductive Health and the Environment
  • Kathy Gerwig,Vice President for Workplace Safety and Environmental Stewardship, Kaiser Permanente
  • Sarah Vogel, Program Officer, Environment, Johnson Family Foundation
  • Aaron Wernham, Project Director, Health Impact Project, Pew Health Group, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Lauren Zeise, Chief, Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency
  • Kathy Sessions, Director, Health and Environmental Funders Network